A significant development in the Caucasus this week, which will have a direct impact on Central Asia, was the start of work on the the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in the Azerbaijan capital.
The pipeline from Azerbaijan's Sangachal terminal, 40km south of the capital Baku, to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, has been under discussion for eight years. When completed, it is expected to reduce worldwide dependence on Gulf exporters and Russian pipelines.
The pipeline will have the capacity to transport one million barrels a day across its 1,737 km length. The cost of transportation is projected at US $3.2 per barrel and the whole project is estimated to cost US$ 2.9 billion. The pipleine will enable Kazakhstan to export north Caspian crude and is expected to offer a boost to its growing energy sector.
Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliev, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, whose territory the pipeline will cross, participated in Wednesday's ground-breaking ceremony.
"This project guarantees peace, security and stability in the region and still further unites three countries and three peoples," Aliev said at the opening ceremony.
The move may stimulate development of another Central Asian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan passing through Afghanistan. Officials from the three countries met in Kabul this week to further discuss the feasibility, which is being funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and is scheduled to be completed in 2003, finance and security allowing.
Oil and gas is to be piped from the southern Daulatabad fields of Turkmenistan across 764 km of Afghan territory, subsequently linking up with Pakistan’s gas grid and onward to the Indian Ocean. The pipeline, with a capacity of 15 to 30 billion cubic metres of gas a year, is expected to cost between US $2 billion and US $2.5 billion - if not more.
While the Central Asian states are engaged in infrastructure development through joint cooperation and projects, the state of human rights remains a key concern for international human rights organisations.
An Uzbek court this week sentenced a human rights activist to seven years in prison for alleged anti-government activity and links to radical Islamic groups. The case has been strongly criticised by human rights watchdogs, who regularly accuse the government of persecution.
Yuldash Rasulov, 35, member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, was found guilty of recruiting members for a banned radical religious group.
Combating terrorism, especially in the aftermath of 11 September, has become a major issues for several Central Asian states. But critics say this has often been at the expense of human rights. This week Kyrgyzstan and China began conducting joint exercises on their borders to fight terror groups.
The exercises are the first by members of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperative Organisation, which has a pair of treaties pledging joint efforts against terrorism. The group includes Russia and all other former Soviet Republics in Central Asia except Turkmenistan.
Meanwhile, The European Union Europaid Programme launched a two-year project in Uzbekistan this week aiming to improve regional public health services in the north-western Republic of Karakalpakstan and southern Kashkadarya region.
The project aims to improve early clinical, sanitary-epidemical laboratory diagnostic services and emergency medical aid.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions